courtesy of Mayles Films
Shining A Light On A Stabby ’60s Gem
Greetings and salutations* film nerds …
I have a cinematic bone to pick with some of you. Last week, a crazy nut identifying herself as a “Reel Fan” had the pluck to approach me, Poppa H, on Post Street like I was some regular person and demand that I speak some form of casual English with her as if we were some sort of friends … She even went as far as to waste precious seconds of my way-more-important life with a probing question. I said, “Wait a minute, what’s this bullshit? Am I on a junket? She said, “Hey you; love the Reel but tell me, what makes Poppa H laugh?”
Let me preface this by saying I love it when fan’s attack, but are we all like neighbors now? Has S.F. turned into Smallville, USA? Where is your urban moxie San Francisco? When you see me on the street you either brush past me, make out with me using a grotesque amount of tongue or punch me square in the face, it’s that simple. If this were NY, you would all be fired …*
“Who Am I?” – #55 on AFI’s Top 100 Movie Dialogue Clichés
courtesy of Mayles Films
Now for today’s post: To answer my stalker’s question without all the hand biting this time, tackling a mild-mannered reporter on the sidewalk of a large metropolitan city is not fun or funny. Sure, I’m a sucker for ironic humor just like the rest of us, but what gets me going are dialogue clichés like ones that appear in blockbusters where (say, late in Act II) the unnerved muscle bound action hero looks at himself in a cracked mirror and asks, “Who Am I?*” Every time I hear the stilted delivery of that hackneyed phrase, whether it’s coming out of the ass of Derek Zoolander or Keanu Reeves, I can’t stop laughing.
What’s not so goddamned funny is when it’s real life and you’re the action star grimacing into the mirror like McBain … I will admit, I was that “grimacing moron” exactly two hours ago. It wasn’t because I was pulling chunks of broken glass out of my bare feet like Die Hard, rather, it was in light of a hissy fit I had after my mother let it slip during our weekly game of Scrabble that I was in fact the epitome of a 14-point word starting with the letter “A.”
Naturally assuming she meant “asshole” or “arrogant,” it turned out to be an altogether different kind of unkind A – ADOPTED. After dissolving in a vast ocean of crocodile tears and asking myself “Who Am I?” in the bathroom mirror for an hour or so, I gamely plied “mom” with a few more thimbles of Kübler Absinthe before she confessed “dad” found my baby-ness back in 1969 on the side of Interstate 580, an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes near the Altamont Speedway after the infamous free Stones concert turned into a scene out of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. Talk about truth being stranger than fiction …
Home Sweet Thunder Dome
courtesy of Rugged Elegance
“Mom” says a crazy man driving a black Rolls Royce sped off into the night seconds before she pulled over so “pop” could take a leak and do another bong rip. And that’s when dad found me. Being a Vietnam vet, he had an eye for spotting babies in the jungle and had a buddy on the force that traced the plates back to a Rolls Royce owned by the then very famous SF attorney Melvin Belli. Am I the son of Melvin? Or did some pregnant hippie chick with a head full of acid squeeze me out after Jefferson Airplane’s 2nd encore then trade me for a pack of Winston’s and some toilet paper? I can probably guess how you’re betting but man, either way - this makes total sense!
I’ve got to discover my roots so I’m breaking into the old Belli Building to get to the bottom of things. Is this illegal? You bet it is. Do I care? Well, I’m busting into a historical landmark at 2 a.m. high as Mother Goose on homeopathic muscle relaxers, but it’s all cause my head’s full of crazy ideas, man. If I’m not me, then who the hell am I?* You know, it occurs to me, that would make me (four) years older than I thought I was, wow. I suppose that explains all the extra wattage in the old cooker and the Delta Burke stretch marks but how could I have blacked out four years of my childhood? While I look for my shattered identity in this soon-to-be-demolished historic dump, how about I drop this week’s tip for cinematic salvation on you … It’s about F-ing time, no?
courtesy of Mayles Films
Readers should recognize the players in my so-called backstory from a little rockumentary called Gimme Shelter about the Rolling Stones and their nightmare at Altamont. That night the Oakland chapter of the Hell's Angels had their way. Tonight, it's my turn …* In March, when movie wells runneth dry all over the land, why not stay home and check out Gimme Shelter, a classic rockumentary from “direct cinema” masters, brothers David and Albert Maysles? You won’t be disappointed film nerds, the Maysles captured the might of the Rolling Stones standing high atop Mount Altamont at the height of their Satanic Powers.
In the middle of cutting four straight masterpieces (Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers, and Exile on Main Street), the “world’s greatest rock-and-roll band” could do no wrong. The lads were crapping gold records in their sleep. Mick’s codpiece and Keith’s heroin spoon were knighted, bronzed and put on display in Buckingham Palace, but Gimme Shelter is about the year (1969) when the shit hit the fan for the Flower Power Kids. When a free concert (organized by Melvin Belli) to say thank you to America turned into a fucking fiasco of epic proportions, the Rolling Stones and their Sympathy for the Devil helped deliver the fatal kill shot, a switchblade to the heart of the ’60s and its free love idealism. What better way to start up your weekend then to join the Hell’s Angels in beating longhairs with lead-tipped pool cues?
As for MRF, rifling through this old filing cabinet I somehow found in pristine condition, here it is, my old case file! I knew Belli was hiding something. Says here, I was born in a crossfire hurricane, okay … I was schooled with a strap right across my back, sure that happened. But, what the fuck? All it says is Keith Richards is my godfather. He birthed me onstage at Altamont, and that’s it, what kind of backstory is that? I think I’m gonna, oh shit, here comes the Five-O, gotta go! Until next week, screw your DNA and stay stabby America. This is MRF signing off, be bad and get into trouble baby …*
Volume 56 Footnotes
• “Greetings and salutations.” – Heathers (1991): Christian Slater doing his best Nicholson impersonation to a monacle-lovin’ Winona Ryder.
• “If this were New York, these waiters would be fired.” – Before Sunrise (1993): NY tourist bitches about the shitty service in an Austrian bar.
• “Who am I?” – Point Break (1991), Zoolander (2001): Keanu and Ben in the throws of gut-check time tough it out while the Western world waits.
• “If I’m not me, then who da’ hell am I?” – Total Recall (1990): Arnold foils Cohaagen by pulling his brain through his nose in this schlock-alicious sci-fi classic.
• “You might recognize this song from a little rockumentary called Gimme Shelter about the Rolling Stones and their nightmare at Altamont. That night the Oakland chapter of the Hell's Angels had their way. Tonight, it's my turn..” – The Cable Guy (1996): Jim Carrey gets juiced up at the best Karaoke jam ever.
• “Let’s get into trouble baby.” – Tapeheads (1988): Soul Train host Don Cornelius (as Hollywood Producer Mo Fuzz) breaks it down to upstart filmmakers Tim Robbins and John Cusack.
Born In A Crossfire Hurricane, That Explains It …